Garrity's Friday Dad's Hat Happy Hour Handicapping picks races at Saratoga, Ellis Park, Gulfstream, Woodbine
Signs that summer is winding down are all over: back-to-school sales ads are out, the sun is rising later each day, and the Labor Day holiday weekend, the traditional end of summer, starts in just two weeks. But we will try to hang onto summer, the sweetest and most fleeting of seasons, with a Friday installment of Dad’s Hat Happy Hour Handicapping; today we have five plays, at four tracks, in well under an hour’s time.
We expect fast dirt and firm turf in all races, except at Saratoga, where they’re off grass, and the main track is listed as muddy. Let’s go.
Saratoga, Race 8, 5:05 pm ET
Starter Allowance, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
A field of ten lines up for the 8th at the Spa. It’s the time of year when 3-year-olds start to become dangerous when running against older horses, and we mention that because the pick here is 5-Repo Rocks, who looks like a late-blooming sort, the kind of sophomore who can be so dangerous in the fall and late summer. It took him a while, 11 starts, to be exact, to break his maiden, but he has earned good speed figures in his last five races, and on that basis would be a decent play. But we think he is going to be even better today, partly because he’s getting Lasix for the first time and partly because he’s been gelded since his last start, and if he improves off his last couple of races, the rest of this field is running strictly for second money. We will bet him to win at 7/2. The bet: Saratoga, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Repo Rocks.
Ellis Park, Race 8, 5:10 pm ET
Allowance, 1 mile, Turf, 3 & Up
This first-level allowance in Kentucky drew a field of nine. We have eyes for just one: 5-Kittansett. He starts for trainer Brad Cox, and while his last two races were good -- he broke his maiden and ran third in an allowance at the Fair Grounds over the winter -- what we like more than his past performances is his pedigree, specifically the fact that he’s by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who has somewhat surprisingly turned out to be an excellent turf sire. Kittansett makes his turf debut here, and if he is better on turf than he was on dirt, look out. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Ellis Park, Race 8, $35 to win on 5-Kittansett.
Gulfstream Park, Race 7, 5:16 pm ET
Maiden Special Weight, 7 ½ furlongs, Turf, 2-Year-Old Fillies
A modest group of maidens lines up for the 7th in South Florida. We are going with a straight-down-the-line speed play, in the form of 8-Saturday Nite Girl, who makes her second start for trainer Tom Proctor. She has excellent turf breeding, being out of top grass stallion War Front, and she showed high speed in her debut, which was a 5-furlong spring on July 16. She’s a cinch to get the early lead, and on Gulfstream’s speed-favoring turf course, we think she’s going to stay in front all the way around the track. We will bet her to win at 9/2. The bet: Gulfstream Park, Race 7, $35 to win on 8-Saturday Nite Girl.
Woodbine, Race 2, 5:19 pm ET
$7,500 Maiden Claiming 5 ½ furlongs, synthetic, 3 & Up
Nine go in this maiden claimer at Woodbine. Eight were bred in Ontario, and we mention that because we are going with the other one: 9-Salty Candy. He’s a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding with a pretty good Bluegrass pedigree, being out of Twirling Candy and an Uncle Mo mare. He hasn’t looked like the second coming of Seattle Slew so far, being winless in five career starts, but they were against tougher horses, and today he drops to this bottom-level race. We think that will be enough to beat this weak field. We will bet him to win at 5/2. The bet: Woodbine, Race 2, $30 to win on 9-Salty Candy.
Saratoga, Race 9, 5:39 pm ET
$120,000 Skidmore Stakes, 5 ½ furlongs, Dirt, 2-Year-Olds
It’s been a rainy week in Upstate New York, and the Skidmore, which was originally carded for the turf, was unsurprisingly moved to the dirt. This resulted in a host of scratches, but it also resulted in a couple of colts, who were entered only if the race were moved to the main track, to draw in. The pick is one of them: 2-Averly Jane, a Wesley Ward trainee who is undefeated in two career starts, both of which were contested over wet tracks. She has high speed, an inside post, and she should be fresh, as she’s coming off a bit of a layoff. We will bet her to win at 2-1. The bet: Saratoga, Race 9, $40 to win on 2-Averly Jane.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.